Amish barn-raising time lapseSEP 05

Watch as a group of Amish men raise almost an entire barn in a day.

(via colossal)

The history of Japanese video game musicSEP 05

Red Bull is sponsoring a six-part series on the history of Japanese video game music. The first installment covers the music of Space Invaders through the Game Boy. Highlight: composer Junko Ozawa showing off her hand-drawn waveform library she used in composing scores for Namco. Bonus: Space Invader-only arcades in Japan were called "Invader houses" while arcades in New Zealand were known as "spacies parlours".

Update: Beep is a feature-length documentary film that will attempt to cover the history of video game sounds from Victorian mechanical arcades on up to the present day games. They are currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

Common misconceptionsSEP 05

From Wikipedia, a list of common misconceptions, including a recent favorite about life expectancy in the Middle Ages:

It is true that life expectancy in the Middle Ages and earlier was low; however, one should not infer that people usually died around the age of 30. In fact, the low life expectancy is an average very strongly influenced by high infant mortality, and the life expectancy of people who lived to adulthood was much higher. A 21-year-old man in medieval England, for example, could by one estimate expect to live to the age of 64.

Also, Vikings didn't wear horned helmets, Romans didn't puke in vomitoriums after rich meals, the average housefly lives for 20 to 30 days, medieval Europeans didn't believe the Earth was flat, Napoleon was taller than average, the Bible's forbidden fruit was not explicitly an apple, and humans have more than 20 senses. (via @linuz90)

The precision of lat/long coordinatesSEP 05

Let's say you have latitude/longitude coordinates of 40.742041, -73.989579 (my current location). How precise are those 6 digits after the decimal point? Well, five decimal places will get you to within a meter and six will get you to within 11 cm:

The fifth decimal place is worth up to 1.1 m: it distinguish trees from each other. Accuracy to this level with commercial GPS units can only be achieved with differential correction.

The sixth decimal place is worth up to 0.11 m: you can use this for laying out structures in detail, for designing landscapes, building roads. It should be more than good enough for tracking movements of glaciers and rivers. This can be achieved by taking painstaking measures with GPS, such as differentially corrected GPS.

(via teendrama)

The Perfect RecordingsSEP 05

New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones recently compiled a series of five playlists on Spotify of "perfect" songs: vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4, vol 5. Among the songs found on the playlists are Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Blue Moon by Elvis, Pony by Ginuwine, Transmission by Joy Division, Tennis Court by Lorde, No Scrubs by TLC, and Rock Steady by Aretha Franklin. The playlists are also available on Rdio, courtesy of my friend Matt: vol 1, vol 2, vol 3, vol 4, and vol 5.

Update: And here's an Rdio playlist with all five volumes of Perfect Recordings. This will be on shuffle at my place for months to come.

The HandpressoSEP 04

Handpresso

I don't drink coffee -- quelle horreur! quelle suprise! quelle whatevs! -- but those around me seem excited by The Handpresso, a travel-sized espresso maker. The Wild Hybrid model even lets you use pods or your very own ground espresso (for less waste and better taste).

Wes Anderson's vehiclesSEP 04

A compilation of some of the vehicles used in Wes Anderson's movies, shot from the first-person POV.

(via devour)

Tater TetrisSEP 04

I went to the newish Barcade in Chelsea last night to get some dinner and play Star Wars (and Ms. Pac-Man and Tetris and Donkey Kong) and discovered their tater tots are shaped like Tetris pieces:

Tetris Tater Tots

ИOM ИOM ИOM. You can get these tots from a company called US Foods; they call them Puzzle Potatoes. Their sell sheet for the product is a wonder of corporate wishful thinking masquerading as marketing.

Here's a menu item that will encourage kids to play with their food.

Yes! This is exactly what all parents want. Huge parental issue in America right now is that kids don't play with their food enough.

When baked, these innovative Puzzle Potatoes are a fun and healthier alternative to regular fries...

Tater tots are not a health food. That's the whole point. Also, aren't regular fries also healthier when baked?

Puzzle potatoes are new innovative and interactive potatoes for kids.

Imagine the meeting. "Bob, what can we do about these smartphone? Kids just aren't spending enough time with their potatoes anymore. Instead they're Facebooking and Flappy Birding. Wait, I know... interactive potatoes!" [Cut to Bob being paraded around the office on his coworkers' shoulders]

Our proprietary puzzle-piece shapes...

Well, someone else's proprietary puzzle piece shapes, but why quibble with details?

Features & Benefits... 2D or 3D

I don't. I can't. What does that even mean? The sell sheet for these should be super simple: a photo of the tots and this caption in all-caps 120-point type: THEY'RE TATER TOTS SHAPED LIKE TETRIS PIECES! BUY THEM, YOU FOOL! (thx, kathryn)

re/spinSEP 04

The re/spin service helps you import any Spotify or Last.fm playlist into Rdio. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that before too long, we'll need a service to convert Rdio collections and playlists to Spotify. (via @capndesign)

All hail DreadnoughtusSEP 04

Dreadnoughtus

There's a new king of the dinosaurs: Dreadnoughtus schrani. A skeleton of the species was unearthed in Argentina in 2005 and the results of the recently released analysis show this Dreadnoughtus was 85 feet long, weighed around 65 tons, and had a powerful "weaponized tail". The kicker? It was not yet an adult and still growing when it died.

While other giants from Patagonia are known from a handful of bones, almost half of the Dreadnoughtus skeleton has been recovered. What's more, the fossilised bones are in such good condition -- even revealing where muscles attached -- that the skeleton could provide unprecedented insights into the biology, movement and evolution of the group of huge plant-eating dinosaurs it belonged to, called the titanosaurian sauropods.

By comparison, an Apatosaurus (née Brontosaurus) is ~75 feet long and weighed 22 tons while a Boeing 737-900 weights around 50 tons. Here's some more background on the Dreadnoughtus and a video showing some of the fossils:

California drought photosSEP 04

Getty Images photographer Justin Sullivan recently captured some photos of lakes in California showing the extent of the drought there. For me, this is the craziest one, of Bidwell Marina at Lake Oroville:

Cali Drought After

And this is what it normally looks like:

Cali Drought Before

Make Popeye's chicken and biscuits at homeSEP 04

Wylie Chix

Well, well. For a cookbook called Fried & True: More than 50 Recipes for America's Best Fried Chicken and Sides, food genius Wylie Dufresne recreated the recipes for Popeye's chicken and biscuits.

The tenders first get an overnight soak in buttermilk and hot sauce that makes them juicy and, um, tender. To nail the perfectly seasoned crust, he eventually landed on a breading that includes a packet of onion soup and a hefty dose of McCormick's Italian Herb Spaghetti Sauce Seasoning Mix. (If this makes you cringe, remember who we're talking about here, and trust.) Cornstarch, potato starch and baking soda added to the self-rising flour mixture ensure the signature craggy texture and exceptional crunch. Finally, after much experimentation to find the perfect frying temperature, he settled on a relatively low 300°, which renders the crust a deep golden-brown and keeps the lean meat moist.

Better than the original, says Serious Eats' Maggie Mariolis. Dang.

Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana is on a rollSEP 04

Unless you're a close follower of chess, you're probably missing out on one of the most impressive feats the game has ever seen. Fabiano Caruana, an Italian born in the US and currently ranked #3 in the world, has won seven straight games in the "strongest ever chess tournament", the Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, MO. No losses, no draws, just 7 straight wins.

In terms of comparison, Magnus Carlsen, the world's current #1 and owner of the highest ranking ever, is 2-1-4 at the same tournament. Which is pretty typical; the best players draw a lot. Over his career, Carlsen has drawn almost 50% of the time and Caruana about 40%.

The modern times of chess have a new king, king Fabiano Caruana. One has to look back to 1968 where in Wijk Aan Zee the legendary Korchnoi started with 8,0/8. The times now are so different and the competition so fierce that already Fabiano's success can be proclaimed as the most memorable streak in the history of chess.

Along the way, Caruana has beaten Carlsen (#1), Levon Aronian (#2), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (#9) twice, Hikaru Nakamura (#7), and Veselin Topalov (#6) twice. If you look at the unofficial live chess ratings, you'll see he has moved into the #2 position in the world, jumping a whopping 34.1 points in rating. He also owns the fourth highest rating in history, behind Carlsen, Kasparov, and Aronian. Caruana plays Carlsen again today, starting from the more advantageous white position. (via @tylercowen)

Update: In his eighth match, Caruana drew against Carlsen but clinched first place overall with two matches remaining.

The most interesting boring people in the worldSEP 03

James Ward runs the Boring Conference ("a one-day celebration of the mundane, the ordinary, the obvious and the overlooked -- subjects often considered trivial and pointless, but when examined more closely reveal themselves to be deeply fascinating") and writes in the Guardian about some of the people he's met who fascinated by the mundane.

"How should we take account of, question, describe what happens every day and recurs every day?" asks the French writer Georges Perec in his 1973 essay on the "infra-ordinary" (his word for everything that's the opposite of "extraordinary"). Perec challenges us to question the habitual. "But that's just it, we're habituated to it. We don't question it, it doesn't question us, it doesn't seem to pose a problem, we live it without thinking, as if it carried within it neither question nor answers, as if it weren't the bearer of any information."

Perec's point is that everything contains information. It's just that, sometimes, it takes a bit of work to notice it. These days, an audience and a platform can be found for even the most niche interests, as people demonstrate that nothing is truly boring - not if you look at it closely enough.

(via mr)

Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls WilderSEP 03

Pioneer Girl

Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her autobiography, Pioneer Girl, in the early 1930s. The book was deemed unsuitable for publication, but Wilder reworked her story into the successful Little House on the Prairie series for children.

Now the South Dakota Historical Society is publishing an annotated version of Pioneer Girl, which includes stories from Wilder's childhood that didn't make it into the kids' books. And for good reason.

It contains stories omitted from her novels, tales that Wilder herself felt "would not be appropriate" for children, such as her family's sojourn in the town of Burr Oak, where she once saw a man became so drunk that, when he lit a cigar, the whisky fumes on his breath ignited and killed him instantly. In another recollection, a shopkeeper drags his wife around by her hair, pours kerosene on the floor of his house, and sets their bedroom on fire.

Wilder's memoir also paints a different picture of her father, Charles Ingalls, known in the novels as Pa. Although the real man's character is essentially the same as the version in the novels - affectionate, musical and restless to move on through America's frontier - he is, said the book's publisher, the South Dakota Historical Society Press, clearly "romanticised and idealised". In Wilder's autobiography, he is described sneaking his family out of town in the middle of the night after failing to negotiate the rent with the landlord, justifying the flit by calling the man a "rich old skinflint".

Earlier this year, there was an open casting call for the role of Laura in a new movie version of Little House on the Prairie. Maybe the drunken self-immolation will make it into this one!

Slow-mo skateboard tricksSEP 03

It turns out that this close-up video of slow motion skateboard tricks is all I've ever wanted out of life.

I had no idea that's what they were doing down there. It's a symphony of footwork!

The weather taketh awaySEP 02

From Matter, a list of things to enjoy now before climate change takes them away or makes them more difficult to procure. Like Joshua trees:

The Joshua trees of Joshua Tree National Park need periods of cold temperatures before they can flower. Young trees are now rare in the park.

And chocolate:

Steep projected declines in yields of maize, sorghum, and other staples portend a coming food crisis for parts of sub-Saharan Africa. But here's what will probably get everyone's attention in the developed world: Studies suggest cacao production will begin to decline in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, the source of half of the world's chocolate, by 2030.

And cherries:

Eighty percent of tart cherries come from a single five-county area in Michigan, all of which is threatened.

But as noted previously, we've got plenty of time to enjoy jellyfish:

Important cold-water fish species, including cod, pollock, and Atlantic Salmon, face a growing threat of population collapse as the oceans heat up. Studies suggest a radical fix: Eat lots of jellyfish, which will thrive in our new climate.

Also, The Kennedy Space Center, Havana, Coney Island, the Easter Island statues, and The Leaning Tower of Pisa will all be underwater sooner than you think.

The squid and the geostationary satelliteSEP 02

Squid Satellite

Trevor Paglen speculates that human civilization's longest lasting monuments will be the satellites in geostationary orbits around the Earth.

Humanity's longest lasting remnants are found among the stars. Over the last fifty years, hundreds of satellites have been launched into geosynchronous orbits, forming a ring of machines 36,000 kilometers from earth. Thousands of times further away than most other satellites, geostationary spacecraft remain locked as man-made moons in perpetual orbit long after their operational lifetimes. Geosynchronous spacecraft will be among civilization's most enduring remnants, quietly circling earth until the earth is no more.

Geoff Manaugh attended a lecture of Paglen's, where Paglen suggested a possible discoverer of these artifacts:

Billions of years from now, he began to narrate, long after city lights and the humans who made them have disappeared from the Earth, other intelligent species might eventually begin to see traces of humanity's long-since erased presence on the planet.

Consider deep-sea squid, Paglen suggested, who would have billions of years to continue developing and perfecting their incredible eyesight, a sensory skill perfect for peering through the otherwise impenetrable darkness of the oceans -- yet also an eyesight that could let them gaze out at the stars in deep space.

Perhaps, Paglen speculated, these future deep-sea squid with their extraordinary powers of sight honed precisely for focusing on tiny points of light in the darkness might drift up to the surface of the ocean on calm nights to look upward at the stars, viewing a scene that will have rearranged into whole new constellations since the last time humans walked the Earth.

And, there, the squid might notice something.

Note: Illustration by Chris Piascik...prints & more are available.

East Village, now and thenSEP 02

In 1984, Daniel Root took photos of the East Village in NYC. Root is revisiting the locations of those photos and posting comparisons to a Tumblr.

Ev 30 Years Ago

Wish the images were bigger...370x250 is more of a 1984 resolution.

Willy Wonka's Fudge MountainSEP 02

The Guardian has published a lost chapter of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was cut from the book early on.

"I wonder how Augustus Pottle and Miranda Grope are feeling now?" Charlie Bucket asked his mother.

"Not too cocky, I shouldn't think" Mrs Bucket answered. "Here - hold on to my hand, will you, darling. That's right. Hold on tight and try not to let go. And don't you go doing anything silly in here, either, you understand, or you might get sucked up into one of those dreadful pipes yourself, or something even worse maybe. Who knows?"

There's not much to the chapter...it seems as though for the finished product Dahl pared down the number of children from ten to four and fleshed out each of their stories more. Here's more on the lost chapter and early drafts of the book. (via @DavidGrann)

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